Offensive: What was that guy’s name again? Oh yeah, Tebow. Tim Tebow. Florida football won’t be the same without him — on that point, everyone can agree — but the Gators will not fall off the college-football map. Junior quarterback John Brantley, who once orally committed to Texas only to follow his heart back to Florida, has waited a long time for his opportunity. By all accounts, Brantley has the big arm and quick-thinking persona to fill the large shoes very capably. As usual, Florida has weapons galore at the skill positions, although it’s still unknown whether a true go-to receiver exists on the roster. The best candidate is junior Deonte Thompson, who needs more consistency. Also watch for highly touted freshman Andre Debose, who missed all of last season because of injury. Junior Jeff Demps, who has run a 10.11 in the 100-meter dash, will be the primary ball-carrier, although junior Chris Rainey, now playing slot receiver, probably will emerge as a change-of-pace option.
Defensive: The Gators have one of the nation’s top secondaries, paced by junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins and senior safety Ahmad Black. There’s also an array of possibilities along the defensive line. Senior defensive end Justin Trattou is the most reliable pass-rusher, while senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders is expected to plug up the middle. The linebackers will undoubtedly miss the leadership of Brandon Spikes, but senior Brandon Hicks should assume a more prominent role.
Specialists: Mixed results here. Junior place-kicker Caleb Sturgis needs more consistency. Senior punter Chas Henry is reliable with a 42.1-yard career average. The return game took a hit with the loss of Brandon James, but there are an abundance of big-play candidates to replace him. Meyer, a big proponent of special-teams play, has overseen 28 blocked kicks in his five-season tenure.
Coaching: Meyer was gunning for his third national championship, but those hopes unraveled in the SEC title game loss against Alabama. Then much of Meyer’s life began to unravel. Meyer cited health concerns when he resigned just before the Sugar Bowl, then he “un-resigned’’ one day later, saying he simply needed some time off. Meyer has built a magnificent program at Florida, but his progress bears watching, especially if the going gets tough.
Heisman hopefuls: Brantley already is on the B-list, just because he plays pitch-and-catch with the Gators. It’s a long leap to project Brantley as a primary candidate, but if he puts up big numbers, exposure won’t be a problem.
Overview: Because of last season’s unbelievably massive expectations, Florida’s 13-1 finish was considered a disappointment. Now the scenario has flipped. Tebow is off to the NFL. Some are questioning Meyer’s long-term commitment to coaching. The Gators are not favored to capture the SEC title. Meyer loves being an underdog again. Gators players will enjoy that role, too. Expect Florida to be formidable competition for Alabama.
Next up: No. 10 Wisconsin
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick he wishes he was spoken to in private prior to the insults.
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Saban hurt by colleagues' comments?
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick what he think of these comments.
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